Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Around the World: How Japan Does Christmas

Although the most important holiday of the season in Japan is New Year's Day, Christmas is not forgotten. In Japan, certain Christmas symbols, traditions, and practices are similar to Western Christmas traditions -- just with a Japanese flare- while others are uniquely Japanese.

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Even in Japan, 6,314 miles away from the United States, the holiday spirit of spreading happiness and the gift of giving is still very strong during the Christmas season. Participating in worship and giving to the sick and poor is the main focus of Japanese Christians around this time of year.

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Christmas day also shares many similarities to what your family's typical Christmas may be. Family members gather together over a turkey dinner to exchange cards and gifts. A Christmas tree can still be found in the house, decorated with an abundance of lights and ornaments. A special corner of each house is reserved for a Nativity scene -- even mistletoe and evergreens are a symbol that Japanese Christians hold dear for this holiday. Hoteiosho, a Buddhist monk who is the Japanese equivalent of Santa Claus, showers the well behaved children with presents on Christmas morning. 

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Despite following some of the more common Christmas traditions, the Japanese have their own spin on the holiday. The Japanese incorporate their rich tradition through their unique Christmas cakes, fried chicken, and Daiku. Their traditional Christmas cake is made from sponge cake decorated with miniature figures of trees, flowers, and Hoeiosho or Santa Claus. In addition to turkey, fried chicken has become a traditional meal for the holiday meal. The music favorite of the season, the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven, Daiku, can be heard playing in many houses  and at many holiday get togethers. 

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